MIAMI (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – It’s been a very up-and-down month for the Miami Heat.READ MORE: Judge Denies Request To Take Death Penalty Off The Table In Case Against Parkland Shooter Nikolas Cruz
The Atlanta Hawks went undefeated in January last year en route to a 60-win season, but the opening month of 2016 has been difficult for the defending Central Division champions.
The Hawks limp into Sunday’s contest at the Miami Heat sitting at 6-8 for the month, and All-Star forward Paul Millsap was lost to a left ankle sprain in Thursday’s 111-92 loss at Indiana.
Thursday’s loss was especially tasking for Atlanta, which erased an 11-point deficit to take a lead with just under six minutes left before, as coach Mike Budenholzer described to reporters afterward, “we hit a wall.”
Despite their recent struggles, the Hawks still hold a 1/2-game lead over the Heat in the Central after Miami extended its winning streak to three with Friday’s 107-103 victory at Milwaukee.
“We’ve shown some grit and some toughness to win some tough games on the road,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra told the media.
Dwyane Wade has been outstanding for the Heat in the past four games, averaging 25.3 points while hitting 51.3 percent of his shots from the field.
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ABOUT THE HAWKS (27-21): Millsap status is uncertain for Sunday, which is concerning since he leads Atlanta with averages of 18 points and 8.8 rebounds.
The Hawks have struggled mightily at the outset of games and that has proven costly down the stretch, with Atlanta going 1-8 this month when scoring 101 points or fewer.
Point guard Jeff Teague scored a team-high 20 points Thursday and is averaging 16 points on 19-of-33 shooting from the field and 5.7 assists in his past three contests.
ABOUT THE HEAT (26-21): Miami point guard Goran Dragic scored 12 points in 31 minutes Friday in his return after missing nine games with a calf injury, and forward Josh McRoberts (knee) played for the first time in 26 games.
Wade scored 10 points in the fourth quarter on Friday and has reached double digits in the final period in each game of Miami’s winning streak.
Forward Chris Bosh is averaging 20.6 points in January, including 22 per game in his past six contests while earning his 11th consecutive All-Star berth.
- Miami C Hassan Whiteside missed his fourth consecutive game on Friday with a strained oblique.
- The Hawks shot 39.8 percent from the field Thursday, just the seventh time in 48 games Atlanta has hit less than 40 percent of its field-goal attempts.
- Atlanta and Miami have split the first two games of the season series while the Hawks have won the past three meetings in Miami.
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